As a band of travel bandits who like to explore the nooks and crannies of the world for lovely liquor, we like nothing more than to share our findings. Who knew, learning can be fun!
We’ve complied a little light reading below on some of our favourite spirits of the moment. Want to know more? No problem…pop to the bar, speak to our friendly team and discover how we use these spirits in our cocktails, or just enjoy them straight up!
Star of the boozy night shot? Well, think again. Generally known for being the spirit found in the classic margarita or a cheeky little livener on a boozy night out, tequila is an underrated spirit with a vast range of producers and that makes it a superb straight sipper that should be as widely appreciated as the best whiskies, gins or rums.
Tequila is a type of Mezcal (but Mezcal is not a type of tequila but more of that later) and is made from blue Weber agave (a succulent, not a cactus) and in a similar way to Champagne being produced in a particular region of France, tequila has to be produced in Mexico, namely the state of Jalisco, or four other specific regions within Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.
Agave are one-time use plants: after seven to ten years of growth the massive heart, or piña, is cut out and processed to make tequila with much of the work being hands-on from start to finish. Because tequila can be fermented with either commercial or wild yeast (from the surface of the agave or surrounding environment), flavour profiles can express more or less subtle variation. Whether it’s a highland (brighter, greener) or lowland (fruitier, earthier) will also impact the flavour profile.
After the piñas are cut out of the agave, they’re steam-cooked to prepare the starches in the piña for fermentation. And while tequila, like vodka and gin, is a clear spirit, it is pot-distilled - tequila is generally distilled at least twice. Once it’s been distilled to strength, tequila is either bottled (for a blanco/joven) or aged for a period of time in any variety of wooden barrel or cask, although there are no strict rules here. Younger tequilas will have more of that green, earthy heat while aged tequilas will be mellower and increasingly rich and complex as age time increases.
A little bit of Maths for you. There are five types of tequila: silver, gold, reposado, anejo, extra anejo.
Silver/Blanco/Joven: generally unaged (or very briefly aged, for smoothness) full of agave flavour.
Gold: Basically, a hybrid type, usually a mixto* with colouring added to make it seem aged when it’s not; best bet is buying a brand that actually states “100% agave”.
Reposado: Meaning “rested,” aged in wood barrels for a minimum of two months to under a year.
Anejo: Añejo tequila is "old" tequila. These tequilas are aged, often in white, French oak or used for a minimum of one year but generally for 18 months to three years to produce a dark, very robust spirit.
Extra Anejo: The change in the tequila market of recent years has led to the creation of a fifth type of tequila, which is labelled extra-añejo or muy añejo (extra-old).
*A bit more Maths – sorry! Mixto is tequila made with only 51% agave and the remainder made from a neutral spirit made from cane sugar. There are plenty of mixto out there, but 100% agave tequilas will reward with much more complexity.